What is that little black ink dot on wood baseball bats?
If you have watched a Major League Baseball game recently, you might have noticed that some of the wood bats that the players are using feature a black dot around the handle. The name for this dot is called the “Ink Dot.” In fact, JustBats carries some wood baseball bats that feature the Ink Dot. Before we explain exactly what the Ink Dot does, we need to explain Slope of Grain.
What is the Slope of Grain?
The technical definition of Slope of Grain is complicated, but, basically, you just want the grains of a wood baseball bat to be as parallel as possible. Additionally, in an ideal world, you want to have them to be evenly spaced out at around a 1/8 inch apart, but this can vary. Keep in mind the more dense the wood is, the harder it is, which results in a better bat. When a piece of wood is cut perfectly parallel to the grain direction of the tree, it will be as strong as it can be. This is what Slope of Grain measures. When wood is cut at an angle to the grain direction of the tree, it loses a lot of that strength. So, if the grains are not as parallel as possible, the wood is not as strong as possible, which will result in a bat that is not as good. With it not being as good of a bat, this greatly increases its chance of breaking. Major League Baseball does not want bats to break because this increases the chance for fan and player injury.
What does the Ink Dot do?
Now, back to the Ink Dot. The reason that manufacturers put the Ink Dot on the bat, and Major League Baseball requires it, is to see the Slope of Grain. It is hard to see the grains on Maple bats and Birch bats, so the Ink Dot helps. No Ash bats will have an Ink Dot because ash is a very grainy wood, for which the grain straightness is highly visible. The actual angle adopted by MLB is 1:20. 1:20 means 1" of deviation in 20" of length, which is 2.86 degrees. Most people just round this number and say that if the angle is more than 3 degrees of the center line the bat is not MLB certified for play.
So, how does MLB measure the Slope of Grain with an Ink Dot?
How Major League Baseball measures the Slope of Grain with an Ink Dot is, actually, pretty simple. With an eye-dropper, a single dot of ink is dropped onto the bat around 11-12 inches up from the handle. The ink then follows the wood grains. From there, the ink is then going to spread out and give a good visualization of the grains. After that, the inspector will take a protractor and measure the Slope of Grain. If it is more than three degrees, Major League Baseball will not let it on the field.
If the bat you purchased has an ink dot on it, this simply shows the quality of your bat. Most likely, you are not going to run into any leagues that are going to require that your bat has an Ink Dot. That being said, for your purpose, it is a cool feature that allows you to see the grains and the quality of bat that you have, and you can feel like a pro. Feel free to brag to your friends about it.